Search results for: noise source

Identifying Noise Sources in the Shack using an SDR and an Active Receive Loop

Over on YouTube user SignalSearch has uploaded a video showing how he uses an active magnetic loop antenna indoors to identify local noise sources. Magnetic loop antennas are directional, meaning that they receive best when pointing towards a signal. This means that they also receive noise better when pointed at a noise source.  In the video SignalSearch uses a W6LVP receive loop antenna and demonstrates noise being emitted from his lightbulb, and from a plug in Ethernet over powerline adapter, which are known to be huge sources of HF noise.

If you are interested in the noise produced by these Ethernet over powerline adapters then we did a previous post on this problem over here.

Using an Active Receive Loop Indoors & utilizing Software Defined Radio to identify noise sources

Tuning an HF Antenna with an Airspy, SWR-Bridge and Noise Source

Over on his blog Anders J. Ørts has created a good writeup showing how he used the combination of an Airspy SDR with SpyVerter upconverter, SWR-Bridge and a noise source to tune his HF dipole for the 40 meter and 20 meter bands. If you’re interested we also have a writeup on doing something similar with the RTL-SDR here.

By connecting the output of the noise source to the SWR-bridge input, and the antenna to the DUT port the return loss or SWR of the antenna can be measured with the Airspy. To get a wider than 10 MHz view of the spectrum Anders uses the SpectrumSpy software for the Airspy which is a spectrum analyzer application that allows you to view any bandwidth that you like. With the Airspy, noise source and antenna all connected correct to the SWR-Bridge significantly notches in the spectrum show up in SpectrumSpy. These notches are the resonant points of the antenna. Visually seeing these notches allows you to fine tune the length of the antenna elements for best SWR.

How to connect it all up
How to connect it all up
SpectrumSpy showing the resonant notches at 40m and 20m.
SpectrumSpy showing the resonant notches at 40m and 20m.

Poor Mans Spectrum Analyzer with an RTL-SDR and Noise Source

Over on YouTube channel Bootstrap Workbench has been running a series on using an RTL-SDR and noise source to create a poor man’s spectrum analyzer. So far he has three videos available. The first shows how to install and setup Spektrum, his preferred Windows based wideband scanner for the RTL-SDR.

The second video shows how the RTL-SDR, noise source and Spektrum can be used to tune a cavity duplexer. A cavity duplexer is an adjustable set of filters that allows you to use a single antenna for TX and RX at different frequencies. It can be tuned by adjusting screws on the unit body.

In the third video he shows how to examine the response of a dual ferrite isolator/circulator which is a device that can be used to ensure RF only travels in one direction. This could be use for example to prevent damage to a TX power amplifier from reflected signals due to high VSWR or other nearby powerful signals.

Poor Man's Spectrum Analyzer – Installing Spektrum and Testing an RTL-SDR com 88-108 Bandstop Filter
Poor Man's Spectrum Analyzer – Tuning Cavity Duplexers
Poor Man's Spectrum Analyzer – Examining a Dual Ferrite Isolator/Circulator

If you’re interested in this we also have our own tutorial available about setting something like this up, but using alternative software.

RTL-SDR Tutorial: Measuring filter characteristics and antenna VSWR with an RTL-SDR and noise source

By using an RTL-SDR dongle together with a low cost noise source it is possible to measure the response of an RF filter. Also, with an additional piece of hardware called a directional coupler the standing wave ratio (SWR) of antennas can also be measured. Measuring the response of a filter can be very useful for those designing their own, or for those who just want to check the performance and characteristics of a filter they have purchased. The SWR of an antenna determines where the antenna is resonant and is important for tuning it for the frequency you are interested in listening to.

These tutorials are based heavily on information learned from Adam Alicajic's (9A4QV), videos which can be found at [1], [2], [3], [4]. Adam is the creator of the LNA4ALL and several other RTL-SDR compatible products. Recently Tim Havens also posted some experiments with characterizing home made filters on his blog.

Characterizing Filters

Using just a noise source and RTL-SDR dongle it is possible to determine the properties of an RF filter. In our experiments we used the following equipment:


The BG7TBL noise source is a wideband noise source that can provide strong noise over the entire frequency range of the RTL-SDR. It requires power from a 12V source which can be obtained from a common plug in power supply. It also uses an SMA female connector, so you may need some adapters to connect it to your filter under test (adapters can be found cheaply on Ebay). Finally a quick warning: be careful when handling the circuit board after it has been powered for some time as some of the components can get very hot. Note that if the Ebay store runs out of these there is also a seller on Aliexpress with some available, just type "noise source" in the search bar.

The BG7TBL Noise Source
The BG7TBL Noise Source

If you have a ham-it-up upconverter and are good at soldering small surface mount components you might instead consider purchasing the noise source kit add on. Here is a video showing how to build and test the ham-it-up noise source. Continue reading

Characterizing the SWR of an Antenna with a Noise Source and an RTL-SDR

In our last post Adam Alicajic showed us on YouTube how to determine the frequency response of an RF filter using just a wideband noise source an LNA and an RTL-SDR dongle.

In his latest video Adam shows how the SWR of an antenna can be measured using almost the same low cost equipment. One additional piece of hardware required to measure the SWR is a directional coupler which can be bought on Ebay for about $10 USD.

SWR stands for “standing wave ratio” and is a measure that can be used to tune an antenna for a particular frequency. The closer the SWR is to 1:1 at the designed antenna frequency, the better the antenna will receive (and transmit).

In his video Adam shows how he measures the SWR of an ADS-B antenna which he has built and is selling. His results show that the antenna has an SWR of 1:1.02 at 1090 MHz which is quite good.

DIY Characterize the antenna Retrurn Loss / SWR with the DVB-T SDR

Characterizing RF Filters with a Noise Source and RTL-SDR Dongle

Over on YouTube RTL-SDR experimenter Adam Alicajic has uploaded a video showing how it is possible to use the RTL-SDR as a tool to measure the frequency response of an RF filter. To do this he uses a noise source circuit which produces wide band white noise connected to an LNA4ALL, connected to the RF filter and finally connected to the RTL-SDR. Then using the Touchstone spectrum analyzer software he does a 300 MHz bandwidth sweep over a section of the spectrum which shows the response of the filter.

The noise source can be built from a simple diode based circuit as shown in a previous post, or if you have the Ham-it-up upconverter you can buy the parts for the noise generator part of the circuit.

In his video he shows the frequency response of a 145 MHz helix filter, a coax notch filter and a 1090 MHz home brew bandpass filter.

Demonstrating Solar Inverter Noise Cancelling with a Timewave ANC-4 and Airspy HF+

At his house W1VLF found that his solar inverter was causing huge amounts of interference on the HF bands, essentially making any hope at receiving shortwave or amateur radio signals impossible on his Airspy HF+ Discovery . However, over on his YouTube channel he's demonstrated a solution that allows him to almost completely cancel the noise.

The solution involves using a Timewave ANC-4 noise canceler, which is as analog noise cancelling device available from the manufacturer for US$209.95. To use the device you also need a noise probe which can be a small loop antenna. The noise probe is connected to the ANC-4 and placed near the source of the noise, which in W1VLF's case was just on the solar inverter enclosure mounted on the outside of his house. Then by tuning the gain and phase knobs on the ANC-4 the noise can be cancelled out of the signals received by the main antenna. 

In the video W1VLF demonstrates how effective noise cancelling with the ANC-4 can be by showing the before and after results with his Airspy HF+ Discovery.

Kicking Solar inverter noise in the A$$ with noise cancelling

Updates on the PICTOR Low Cost Open Source Radio Telescope Based on RTL-SDR

Back in July we posted about PICTOR, an open source and RTL-SDR based radio telescope project. The owner of the project recently wrote in and wanted to share some updates. His text is below:

A few months ago, PICTOR was launched. PICTOR is a free to use open source radio telescope that allows anyone to observe the sky in the 1300~1700 MHz range at any time via the easy-to-use online platform.

The goal of this effort is to introduce students, educators, astronomers and others to the majesty of the radio sky, promoting radio astronomy education, without the need of building a large and expensive radio telescope. 

Since the initial launch, PICTOR has gotten lots of updates and improvements, particularly in the software backend, providing more data to the users, using advanced techniques to increase the signal-to-noise ratio by calibrating spectra and mitigating radio frequency interference (RFI) (if present).

Here is an example observation with PICTOR, clearly showing the detection of 3 hydrogen-dense regions corresponding to 3 unique spiral arms in the Milky Way!

Graphs from the PICTOR RTL-SDR Radio Telescope showing the 3 unique spiral arms in the Milky Way.
Graphs from the PICTOR RTL-SDR Radio Telescope showing the 3 unique spiral arms in the Milky Way.

If you’re new to radio-astronomy, the developer of PICTOR has provided a PDF including some introductory radio astronomy information and instructions on how to observe the radio sky with PICTOR: